CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (MCVL.org) - For the fourth time in as many seasons, Carthage has been tabbed by the head coaches of the Midwest Collegiate Volleyball League to win the regular season title in 2019. The Red Men garnered all 99 of the 100 possible voting points with nine first place votes.
Over the last 14 seasons, L.J. Marx has led the Carthage men's volleyball program to its current standing as a perennial power in the nation and 2019 proves to follow a similar script. The Red Men navigated the MCVL Tournament and dispatched of Loras in the title match to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in program history. Carthage returns its top hitter in Evan Walsh, who finished with a team-best 259 kills in 2018 to go along with 38 service aces. In total, the Red Men garnered four All-Conference selections in Walsh, Zach Lillig, Matt Reinsel and Kelvin Rivera, with two of the four set to return this season.
Last year's regular season champions, North Central, totaled 90 points in the preseason coaches poll and one first place vote. Led by 2018 MCVL Coach of the Year Kyle Exline. New to the Cardinals in 2019 is Dan Ames as Exline's top assistant. Ames was the MCVL Coach of the Year in 2017 while leading Dominican to its first MCVL Championship and NCAA Tournament appearance. First Team All-Conference pick in Michael Trunzo returns for the Cardinals in 2019 along with second team selection Bozhidar Kolev. Combined with Nick Lilley, the duo totaled 389 kills, with Lilley holding the slight advantage with 205 while Kolev held the better attack percentage at .203. Trunzo was fifth in the MCVL a season ago, averaging 9.06 assists per set.
The Duhawks of Loras earned their highest preseason position in this year's poll at No. 3 and 74 voting points. Head coach Jeremy Thornburg led the Duhawks to their first appearance in the MCVL Tournament in 2018 as the fourth seed and upset North Central in the tournament semifinal. Thornburg will be without his workhorse in Dylan Ross, who led Loras in 2018 with 236 kills, which helped to earn Ross a Second Team All-Conference selection. Returning for the Duhawks in 2018 will be second team selection Alfredo Lopez.
Mount St. Joseph rounds out the top-four in this year's poll with 71 voting points. Christina Webb's squad made its third consecutive appearance at the MCVL Tournament in 2018, bowing out in the first round to eventual tournament champion, Carthage. The 2019 season could pose a challenge for the Lions who lost their top-two offensive leaders in Adam Williams and Andrew Chisholm to graduation. The tandem combined for 404 kills last year, with Williams ranking fifth in the league at 2.91 kills per set. Chisholm finished just shy of averaging a dig per set at .99, which ranked third in the MCVL last year.
Following the top-four in the poll is Augustana (57 points), Fontbonne (57 points), Adrian (38 points), Greenville (29 points), Olivet (17 points) and Trine (16 points).
The MCVL welcomes first-year program Trine to the league, taking the place of Wittenberg. In addition, three other programs begin chapters with new head coaches including Ryan LeGrand (Fontbonne), Chad Nelson (Greenville) and Kyle Radde (Olivet).
On Jan. 11, the 2019 season commences for the MCVL with Adrian and Olivet in action at the Michigan Men's Volleyball Invitational. League play opens on Feb. 12 with Trine at Adrian.